AFC Champions League Qualifier Preview: Brisbane Roar vs. Buriram United.




Brisbane’s second ever AFC Champions League campaign kicks off tonight, with a one off qualifier to qualify for the group stage proper. The 2012 A-League Champions- Brisbane Roar FC will take on the 2012 Thailand FA Cup Champions- Buriram United in a winner take all match-up. The prize, a spot in Group E alongside Vegalta Sendai of Japan, Jiangu Sainty of China and FC Seoul of South Korea.



Expected Starting line-ups:
Brisbane Roar: Theo, Franjic, North, Jurman, Stefanutto, Brattan, Lustica, Nijland, Nichols, Berisha, Broich.
Buriram United: Tedsungnoen, Suree Sukha, Barba, Chuthong, Bunmathan, Ampaipitakwong, Chappuis, Surat Sukha, Hirano, Santana, Jerkovic.



Brisbanes’ preparation of this match is far from ideal in truth. They had a long haul flight on Monday of over 15 hours to get to the province of Buriram in Thailand’s’ North and only one short training session to familiarise themselves with their surroundings. They do however have an advantage of being match fit with the Thai league still in its pre-season phase, however it is negated by the travel factor.



In terms of squad selection, Mulvey really only has one choice to make imo, and it’s going to come down to Murdocca or Nijland. Does he opt for the more attacking of the duo to go for them from the start, or does he take the perhaps safe, harder working option to add another cog to the engine room in what will be a tough game. I suspect it will be the former, with Nijlands’ individual brilliance too good to ignore. At the back, Jurman will slide into the centre of defence alongside North, with Franjic resuming his customary right back role while Stefanutto has shrugged off his illness and will start on the left. There are plenty of options available to Mulvey should the need to change things arise with Acton, Hingert, Donachie, Murdocca, Lambadaridis, Halloran and Meyer all likely starters on the 7 man substitutes bench.



Buriram are a little tougher to read because they haven’t played a competitive game as yet, however, if you read my preview of them last week you’ll know a fair bit about them. The Thai contingent will be lead by the Sukha brothers, with captain and fellow international Suchao Nutnum to undergo a late fitness test. If he’s out, Spanish defender Osmar Barba is likely to lead the team out. He’ll be joined by fellow foreigners in Swiss midfielder Charyl Chappuis, goal scorer Goran Jerkovic and Japanese winger Kei Hirano.



The Buriram coach has made some comments in the pre-game build-up that were rather interesting and largely accurate.



“We have analysed Brisbane’s A-League matches extensively. We have highlighted their midfield as their biggest weakness”

“We are ready to play attacking football & to keep them under constant pressure by keeping possession of the ball in their half”



There was a fair bit of comment on this yesterday, but the truth is, they’re not wrong. The midfield has been a weak point this season, especially in transition in both directions. It’s one of the main reasons im hoping that Murdocca returns to the starting line-up tonight because with that trio in behind Berisha, none of them are overly good at tracking their runners leaving overloads and counter attacking opportunities which the quick and skilful Thais will look to exploit. In an attacking sense there’s not a great deal of urgancy to move the ball forward quickly to exploit any space on the counter attack, as seen by the approach on Sunday to regularly go back to the centre backs before moving forward.



Overall this promises to be a terrific encounter between two sides who generally try and play possession, attacking football. Brisbanes’ record is hardly fantastic in the Champions League (Played 6: Won 0, Drawn 3, Lost 3), but they’ll need to record the clubs 1st ever win in Asia if they want to progress to the group stage again. There’s a lot riding on the game tonight, hopefully the lads put in their best performance of the season to date and by 11pm tonight were celebrating a 2nd ACL group stage appearance.


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